How to Pack for a Family Trip

What's the best way to pack a suitcase and make sure you take the right stuff for the trip? How do you know if you've packed enough, but not too much? Learn my simple 5 step packing system to be prepared for your next #familytrip! #familytravel #toddlermom #travelingwithkids #summervacation #winterbreakHave you ever thought, “Yay! I’ve booked my vacation. Buuuut, traveling with little kids sounds like work. Where do we begin? What do we need? How do we actually enjoy our vacation??”


First, relax. Take a deep breath and picture all the fun you’ll have on your trip. Then, start your planning.


Steps for planning a vacation with kids… taking what you need but not everything AND the kitchen sink…

Step 1. Make a list of what YOU need for your vacation. Just for you.

  1. What kind clothes do you need? Accessories?
  2. What will you do for entertainment or to pass the time while traveling and once you’re there?
  3. What do you need for the weather or for the activities you’ll be doing?
  4. Don’t forget toiletries, medicines, shoes, etc!

Step 2. Then, based on the list for YOU, what will your kids need?

Starting with ourselves usually makes planning what to take easier. Of course, our little ones don’t need the same things as us (and often times they need MORE stuff!), but it’s a good starting point. Writing a list for ourselves and then our kids helps us picture what we’re doing, and what we’ll need (see Step 3), which helps with knowing what to take for the kids. 

Step 3. Activities and Vacation Plans

What activities will you be doing while on vacation?

        Make a list! (see a trend here?)

Then, think of things you’ll need and if you’re going to buy, borrow, or rent while there or if you need to take it from home.

For example, when we went to Hawaii, I knew I’d need shade for the beach, but I didn’t know if we’d need something that popped up or if we’d be using a cabana, so I decided to wait until we got there to get something. I found the perfect pop-up cabana to keep the sun off the baby, and we can still use it today! I also knew that there were stores I could shop at while there, so it was easier for me to make this decision to wait until we got there.

Now, looking at your list and looking at the size of your luggage (and things always take up more space than we anticipate!) do you REALLY need it all, or can you do without some of it?

Can you lighten the load by doing laundry (hand-washing in the sink and line drying in the shower or using an actual washer and dryer)? Can you share or borrow?

[blockquote author=”” link=”” target=”_blank”]Space saving tip: I use the sample size laundry detergent while on vacation and pack enough clothes for half the trip plus 1 day. Then, around the middle of the trip, I hand-wash our stuff, roll it out in the towels to get out excess moisture, and hang it to dry after our evening showers. When we get back the next day, our stuff is dry and ready to wear again! A bit of a pain? Perhaps, but honestly, it’s not that bad. The kids usually watch a show on TV so they’re occupied and I get some downtime to do something mindless, without the hassle of dragging clothes to laundry facilities or the extra expense of having them done for us. [/blockquote]


Step 4 (if applicable). Travelling with a baby or toddler in diapers?

To bring diapers or not is a big question!

On one hand, getting them there saves space in your luggage and almost any place you go is likely to have diapers. Maybe not the brand you normally use, but unless your baby has sensitive skin, switching brands for a trip probably isn’t a huge deal.

On the other hand, taking them with you means you have extra space in your luggage on the way home and you don’t have to go out and buy them when you’re there. To know how many to take, estimate how many by counting how many diaper changes you do a day and multiplying that by the number of days you’ll be gone. Add in an extra day’s worth for delays, changes in bowel movements due to changes in food, etc.

  • What I’ve always done: I have always taken diapers with us. I couponed for them, so I had them pre-purchased well in advance (for less money than the average shelf price) and I didn’t want to pay more for diapers at a resort or worry about stopping at the store after a day of travelling to get diapers. Plus, I love that I have extra space in my luggage on the way home for souvenirs and stuff I purchased while on our trip. Diapers fit nicely into the outside pouch on suitcases and can be rolled into boots or adult shoes, so they really don’t take up THAT much extra space.

Step 5. Pack early

Packing your stuff a few days early helps make sure you have everything you need while giving you time to get it if needed. But, some things can’t be packed until closer to our departure, so make a list of things that you need to use before your trip, like your make-up, electric toothbrush, etc. so that you don’t forget to pack it at the last minute.

 [blockquote author=”” link=”” target=”_blank”]Pro Tip: SAVE your lists! You can reuse them for the next vacation. Even if the climate is different and you’re not needing bathing suits for your winter ski trip, the general idea is likely similar and will give you a starting point. [/blockquote]


IF you can, and your children are too young to TRULY be helpful, pack by yourself. Yes, it’s great to have little ones help us, but packing is already hard and can be stressful and overwhelming. You want to make sure you take enough stuff, but not too much, and you really don’t want 10 shirts and no pants for your 2 year old on your extended weekend trip, because you allowed the little ones to help.

If you want to involve the kids a bit (great idea!), tell them how many shirts they’ll need, and let them choose or make their own outfits. Edit it if needed when you finish packing BY YOURSELF.


Keeping Clothes (and the suitcase) Organized*

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission for referring you IF you make a purchase.

Packing kids’ clothes in gallon sized food storage bags (or packing cubes*, one color for each person) is a great idea! It keeps your suitcase organized and makes it easy to find what you need. Traveling with more than one little one? Pack their clothes for the day together, if your kids are small enough. Then, each day, you open a new bag and take out the outfits. Another option is to pack all of each kids’ shirts together, shorts/pants, etc. together, just like in their dresser drawers at home.

I pack my clothes the same way- shirts in one bag, socks in another type of thing. I use space saver bags for my stuff since my clothes are bigger, but gallon sized food storage bags work GREAT for the little ones. Not only does this keep our suitcase organized (I check one bag for all of us since it’s easier than lugging all of our clothes through the airport in carry-ons), but if TSA needs to check it, it should hopefully be a bit easier and lessen the chances of my bras and panties being touched by dirty hands.


I keep either an old pillow case or a large plastic shopping bag in my suitcase for dirty clothes. That way, on the way home, our dirty clothes aren’t touching our clean clothes, creating more laundry for me. This does make fitting it all back into the suitcase (usually with some souvenirs) a bit more tricky, but if I start packing with the dirty-clothes bag(s), it’s fairly easy.


So, there you have it. My simple 5 step packing plan to make sure your next family vacation is off to a great start! But, I’d love to hear your tips too. Join the conversation or comment below. 🙂


Sharing is caring! And, you never know whose vacation you might make a bit easier with this simple packing plan.

Make packing for a #familytrip easier and less stressful with my simple 5 step plan. And, rest assured that you have everything you need, but not TOO much! #travel #summertravel #travellingwithtoddlers #travelingwithkids